Maintaining cover in outside flight pens is important work at MacFarlane Pheasants. Check out my post from last November to learn about the types of ground cover we use and other important facts about maintaining cover in outside pens.
We must maintain a balance of moisture in the pens. This is important because mud can cause the birds’ tail feathers to become dry and brittle if they are left dirty too long, causing them to break and chip. Extremely dry soil will not support good ground cover. Both our farms have environmental characteristics that support good health for our birds. Due to the good drainage on the Janesville farm, if it rains in the morning, the flight pens can be dry by afternoon. Our Milton farm soil is filled with clay and its strength is in moisture retention; therefore, we don’t need an irrigation system on the Milton farm.
Because we have good draining soil on our Janesville farm, it can become very dry during a dry season, so we have a costly irrigation system on this farm. If we do not irrigate the pens during dry years, ground cover will not grow, or in some cases, it will dry up after it gets started. If we allowed that to happen we could not put as many birds into the pens and could not utilize our facilities to their potential. Maintaining good cover means healthier birds, and that is our priority.
Pens are usually tilled by May and in order to eliminate rain as a variable, we have to be prepared to irrigate during the dry years. There are several requirements for good irrigation:
- Maintain a high-volume pressure well.
- Install an irrigation pipe.
- Purchase an irrigator.
- Appoint staff to set up the irrigator and keep an eye on soil.
Once our cover is successfully growing, it has to be managed. Too much cover can be almost as bad as not enough! That’s when we do some mowing to keep 20% to 25% of the pen as open space.
To schedule a visit to discuss ground cover and irrigation, contact Chris Theisen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spring will be here before we know it and it will be time to start preparations for new ground cover!